Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, President of Cuba’s Councils of State and Ministers, identified two key objectives of the Havana revitalization process, during a tour of recently renovated sites of social and economic interest: first recover facilities, and at the same time, guarantee their sustainability, ensuring functionality over time at a high-quality level.
Unlike the situation in other provinces, he noted, in Havana there is not much need for new facilities, but rather the repair of existing ones. It’s about “healing wounds,” he said, and this is precisely one of the principal lines of work being undertaken as part of the program being implemented for the city’s 500th anniversary, according to Luis Antonio Torres Iríbar, secretary of the Party in the province, who accompanied the President on his tour.
It is no accident that the Monument to Hope sculpture is located at the entrance to the National Institute of Oncology and Radiobiology (INOR), where through July this year more than 85,900 consultations have been provided; 3,800 surgeries performed; and more than 3,100 new patients treated.
The staff of 1,087 workers, including 161 doctors, has not only managed to increase the volume of services provided, but has done so with a lower budget, said Dr. Luis Curbelo Alfonso, center director. He described how staff responded to the challenge of recovering quickly from a serious fire that occurred July 17, explaining that all 16 areas which required repairs were fully operational within 12 days, with greater comfort added.
The President confirmed this in areas around the pharmacy, clinical chemistry, breast ward, ambulatory chemotherapy, and imaging, where he conversed with several patients and personnel, discussing the benefits of high-tech equipment available at the Institute, including the tomography scanner which facilitates the detection of cancer in any part of the body, and how to take maximum advantage of the equipment regardless of planned obsolescence.
- The Institute, founded in 1966 by then-Minister of Health José Ramón Machado Ventura, is Cuba’s oncology reference center, where the national cancer registry is maintained and the Cuban Oncology Society based.
- INOR holds best clinical practices certification, and according to the director, more than 660 minimally invasive surgeries were performed here in 2018.
- Other advanced technologies used to treat cancer include pelvic bone stent implants; intraoperative and superficial radiotherapy; radiosurgery; Cobalt-60 brachial therapy; lymph node and thyroid Gamma chamber treatment.
- Currently in use are eight medications produced by Cuban biotechnology for the treatment of cancer, and the INOR is participating in several clinical trials.
During July and August thus far, the National Aquarium received 111,000 visitors, 40% more than in the same period last year, principally a result of the decision to add visiting hours in the evening, according to director María de los Ángeles Serrano Jerez.
Regarding this issue, Díaz-Canel commented that, although it may not be possible to maintain evening hours the rest of the year, other summer options could be continued year-round. He also expressed interest in the facility’s water pumps, as well as the availability of chorine and animal feed, and toured the new food services area which in the past often generated complaints from visiting families.
The President likewise visited the new Gran Azul restaurant, where three dolphin shows a day can be enjoyed from its terrace, which will soon be available for parties and weddings. Other parts of the facility have been transformed and plans include a playground that the President suggested maintain a marine theme.
- The Aquarium hosts a school for trainers of marine mammals, and collaborates with the Ministry of Education as a leader in the development of environmental consciousness among youth.
- Comandante en Jefe Fidel Castro always took special interest in the institution, in the health of staff here, the use of science, and the wellbeing of animals.
While good treatment is appreciated every day, it is especially welcomed at painful times. Díaz-Canel, accompanied by national political and government authorities, noted improvements to the Calzada and K Street Funeral Home’s cold room, where cadavers are preserved, in addition to receiving rooms and the 24-hour café.
The President arrived to see the Kasalta, El Caribeño, and Club 21, restaurant-bar complex, where he insisted on the importance of protecting the high quality remodeling. Leaders of the provincial Commerce and Gastronomy Enterprise on hand described efforts to provide affordable options for all of the city’s families.
Díaz-Canel discussed with staff members the novel possibility of offering small scale cultural performances and extending hours, commenting, “Look how many pleasant places we’ve seen in a short time. Now what needs to be done is maintain them.”
The day began early at the Sauce cultural center, affiliated with Artex, which after a million-peso investment now has a 3D film theater, store, dressing rooms, bars, a cafeteria, and an outdoor patio. Administrators expect to recuperate the investment within two and a half years.
When efforts began two years ago to recover childcare centers in Havana - of critical importance to working families - 42 of these facilities were closed due to disrepair. This number has been reduced to 27, with eight centers re-opening this week as the school year begins, Díaz-Canel learned at the Elpidio Valdés center. This facility was under repair for three years and is now open at full capacity. The President praised the approach of gradually renovating rooms one by one, while maintaining operations.
He also asked about food services for the children, which Education Minister
Ena Elsa Velázquez Cobiella described as generally good, although vigilance must be maintained to ensure good quality, often a concern of parents.
Every stop made by the President became a friendly encounter with the people, a school of leadership that historic leaders of the Revolution established, and their continuators assume naturally.
Díaz-Canel shakes hands and kisses the cheeks of workers at the places he visits, and never shies away from the affection he is shown as people gather round in the hope of taking a picture of him from a distance or a selfie up close, or to simply wave goodbye.
“How exciting!” said a radiant employee after her team took a group shot with the President, while from a balcony above an older woman applauded fervently, and a group of tourists approached to embrace him, amazed to see a head of state “so close.”
“Let them by,” Díaz-Canel said more than once to those in charge of his security, understandably concerned about the crowds. He wants to hear what people have to say. He has reiterated many times that this work style is an imperative he learned from the example of Fidel and Raúl. It is no surprise to see him self-assuredly ask the population why problems haven’t been resolved and what specific proposals they have.
- During July and August thus far, the National Aquarium has received 111,000 visitors, 40% more than in the same period last year, principally a result of the decision to add visiting hours in the evening.
- Díaz-Canel noted improvements at the Calzada and K Street Funeral Home, including a remodeled reception room and 24-hour cafe.
- The cultural center El Sauce, affiliated with Artex, now has a 3D film theater, store, dressing rooms, bars, a cafeteria, and an outdoor patio. Administrators expect to recuperate the investment within two and a half years.
- When efforts began two years ago to recover childcare centers in Havana - of critical importance to working families - 42 of these facilities were closed due to disrepair. This number has been reduced to 27, with eight centers re-opening next week as the school year begins.